Hamburger and french fries

Nina Jorgensen, MD, Primary Care Pediatrics

Everything we consume needs to be broken down and digested to provide energy, and help our bodies develop, heal and function properly. In the 1900s large amounts of food were produced using new techniques that allowed for higher yields, packaged foods with longer shelf lives and precooked meals that reduced time in the kitchen. Fast food, carbonated beverages and processed snacks followed. Our bodies can’t digest many of these manufactured foods. We also have jobs and modes of transportation that sometimes limit physical activity.

Obesity occurs in about 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 in the U.S. Children of a lower socioeconomic status are at an even higher rate. Habits developed as parents, like what we choose to eat and how we spend our time, affect our children, too.

Along with the obesity epidemic, there are other related health issues, such as insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, joint problems, low self-esteem, eating disorders and other emotional problems.

Children have easy access to refined high-carb snacks, candy and sweets, soda and other processed foods. Even getting exercise by playing outside is now a thing of the past. Many of our extracurricular activities for our children require a vehicle of some sort.

What should parents do? Most solutions to problems like this require a combination of education, resolve and practice.

Some things to consider:
  • Use fresh ingredients like the meat, dairy and produce and limit the amount of processed food consumed.
  • Cut out juice and soda. Enjoy sweets sparingly.
  • Use natural colors in your meals. My family enjoys “rainbow dinners.” I chop up colorful vegetables and add boiled eggs, sliced meats and cheese, and let my kids create a colorful plate.
  • Be aware of how the media influences your children. Why do they advertise products like Pepsi and Coca Cola when they aren’t good for you? Discuss advertisements for products like these with your children and talk about what we can learn from them.
  • Develop ways to be active as a family.